Navigating Orthopedic Care As You Get Older

Smiling female doctor in white lab coat reassuring smiling elderly woman in on hospital bed. - Dr. Herrick J. Siegel
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As we grow older, our bodies deal with more health issues. Our risk of breaking bones, having arthritis, injuries, and other orthopedic problems goes up a lot in our later years. But today’s orthopedic care has more ways than before to help aging people stay active. With better surgery techniques, improved joint replacements, and specialized older patient care programs, seniors can get their mobility back and keep their independence and quality of life. Picking the right surgeon is key though.

Common Orthopedic Issues As You Age

Some typical orthopedic problems needing surgery in older adults are:

Arthritis:

The cushioning cartilage between joints wears out over time. Osteoarthritis often strikes the hip, knee, shoulder, spine, and hands. It leads to constant pain, swelling, and less joint movement.

Fractures:

Our bones become weaker as we get older. Even a minor fall can more easily cause broken hips, wrists, backbone bones, pelvis, upper arm bones, and other fractures.

Rotator cuff tears:

The tendons stabilizing the shoulder joint often tear from injuries or gradual wear and tear in seniors. This brings on shoulder pain, weakness, and disability.

Spine conditions:

Spinal stenosis, slipped discs, spondylolisthesis and other spinal problems happen from arthritis and aging changes in the spine. Pinched nerves lead to numbness, weakness, and neurological symptoms.

If left untreated, these orthopedic conditions only get worse in time. They have a huge effect on older people’s day-to-day activities, health, and wellbeing. Putting off needed surgery can also raise risks of complications. Today’s techniques very effectively stabilize fractures and replace damaged joints though.

Considering Risks and Benefits of Surgery

All operations pose some risks. But seniors run two to four times higher chance of issues after surgery. More advanced age itself, and also being frail, having poor nutrition, chronic illnesses, dementia, numerous medications, and other things add to higher surgical risks. However, refusing clearly necessary surgery or waiting too long to have procedures also brings dangers.

For instance, up to 30% of older hip fracture patients pass away within a year of their injury. This often results from complications of being immobile. Getting surgery quickly lowers this chance by enabling people to start walking sooner and prevents losing too much strength needed to recover. For severe arthritis, joint replacement can give rapid relief from pain and make people mobile again compared to ongoing disability without surgery.

Overall, orthopedic surgery aims to lengthen older people’s active years and enrich their life quality. Skilled surgeons weigh the risks versus gains for each aging individual patient to get the best outcomes. Thorough health checks, preparation, and planning before surgery are vital.

Orthogeriatrics: Enhancing Older Patient Care

In the past, orthopedic surgery and geriatrics medicine were separate specialties. But now top orthopedic programs blend cross-disciplinary know-how through orthogeriatric co-management models. These coordinate care across specialties for safer and faster patient healing.

Orthogeriatric teams have orthopedic surgeons, geriatric doctors, anesthesiologists, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, psychologists, dietitians, social workers, care coordinators, and more. Together they handle aging surgery patients’ unique needs before, during, and after procedures.

Research confirms orthogeriatric models cut mortality by almost 50% for hip fracture patients. They also reduce complications, speed up recovery of day-to-day abilities, and increase discharges home rather than to nursing facilities. These successes are now being used for elective orthopedic surgeries like joint replacements too, through advanced screening methods, prehabilitation conditioning programs, and specialized older patient postoperative care.

Selecting the Right Orthopedic Surgeon

With more advanced age, a patient’s choice of surgeon becomes even more important. Sub-specialized expertise, a lot of surgical experience, and good rapport all guide customized decisions and care.

For complex tumors, revision procedures, or trauma, specially fellowship-trained orthopedic oncology surgeons have honed skills in limb salvage techniques. Highly trained in bone and soft tissue cancers, bone metastases, massive bone loss, and infections, they re-establish stability and function when few can.

Similarly, revision joint replacement surgeons focus on the toughest cases where previous joint implants have failed. By removing loose or damaged parts and meticulously reconstructing joints, they give patients a second chance to regain mobility without pain.

Equally vital as surgical skill is the empathy and commitment to bettering older people’s lives. Finding that human connection makes all the difference in care.

Partnering with Dr. Herrick Siegel for Best Results

Here in Birmingham, Dr. Herrick Siegel is one of Alabama’s most trusted orthopedic surgeons for seniors. With 20+ years of experience and 15,000+ procedures done, Dr. Siegel has earned his reputation for successful joint preservation and reconstruction when others cannot.

Dr. Siegel helps desperate patients regain mobility and independence when they have lost hope. By creatively combining his skill, experience, and drive to solve complex cases, he performs joint reconstruction miracles when badly damaged. His tireless care and optimism lift patients’ spirits while restoring their bones and connective tissues.

As both an orthopedic oncologist and revision joint specialist, Dr. Siegel uses two intersecting expertise areas. He preserves limbs and gets joints moving that others say can’t be fixed. Whether addressing traumatic bone loss, failed implants, or cancer spread to bones, he tailors solutions to ease pain and disability and connects with each patient as an individual. Through kind listening, clear explanations, and including patients in decisions, he builds foundations of mutual understanding for optimal outcomes.

If severely advanced hip, knee or shoulder arthritis hampers your movement, or if you have metastatic bone disease, nonunions, or other complex orthopedic conditions, consider contacting Dr. Herrick Siegel for guidance.